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The Personal Column: Music of the spheres

'If a cat and bird can co-exist / on such a day he thought / then why not us humans'

I’ve been writing songs and poems (often the same thing) since the mid-’60s but have never been prolific. Nearly two years ago, I told a friend that once I’d only written five or six in an entire year. The friend immediately set me a target: write a poem a week for a year.

I was apprehensive as I set to, but the first arrived on 15 November 2016 and I never missed in 52 weeks.

I found it challenging at first but as the year wore on I began to look forward to writing the next one. I became more assured perhaps and felt the poems were becoming more fluent.

Once or twice, I wrote more than one in a week and so gave myself a choice for future publication.

However, what I wrote surprised me. As I prepared them for print, I was taken aback to discover how often my grandparents, my mum and dad, my children, our family cats even, appeared among the memories, stories and actual dreams.

So the resulting book has turned out to be part-biography, part-autobiography, part-journal. It’s also part-diary: a response to the seasons, to national news, to the universal pop arts of film, sport and, particularly, music.

Since that once-a-week year ended, however, I’ve not carried on writing a poem a week. I have missed the discipline and have become, in consequence, definitely more prolific than I once was. I hope it’s not the case that more is less.

Meantime, here’s a taster from that eventful year: it’s the poem from Week 25 titled ‘Music of the spheres’ and is preceded by a quote from William Blake’s work Europe: a prophecy (1794).

Five windows light the cavern’d man….
thro’ one he hears
music of the spheres’

O the world
beautiful and terrible
as it is
is all we have
to save or destroy

when our demented
nuclear-crazed leaders
were set on
Mutually Assured Destruction
one teenage citizen of the world

and not the only one
eventually sussed
it was they
who were MAD

yet would look out
from his bedroom window
and if the day was lovely
convince himself
that nothing bad and mad
could possibly happen
to the world
on such a day

a cat lay on the garden grass
while garden birds
among them doves
kept up their songs
and went about
their aerial business

if cat and bird can co-exist
on such a day he thought
then why not us humans
if there was a record
on the radio he liked
he wondered
how anybody in the world
could not like it
as much as he did

there was a term
he’d come across
it was
‘the music of the spheres’
he guessed at what
this music might mean
he could hear it even so

it was the sound of peace
he was sure
maybe that’s what
animals hear
he thinks
without knowing
for sure

Topics: Culture